The high levels of road construction ahead of the World Cup have resulted in a rise in vehicle-related injuries and deaths, says RoadCover, a membership-based service that processes claims against the Road Accident Fund.
Its chief executive, Eugene Beck, said the organisation had processed 20 percent more claims against the RAF this year than in previous years, primarily due to roadwork-related accidents. He said every province had several "hotspots" where increased roadwork activity had led to rising accident levels.
The N2 in Cape Town had "featured prominently" as a hotspot, Beck said.
"More needs to be done in terms of improving safety for drivers and non-motorists at major roadwork sites in order to reduce accident levels."
Beck listed poor signage at road construction sites, makeshift concrete barriers, sudden changes in direction of temporary roads and narrower than normal lanes as the main reasons for accidents at these points.
"Signage at many sites is currently not geared for 24-hour visibility, with night visibility a particular problem," he said. "More effort needs to be made to increase the visibility of signage and safety flaggers in order to pre-warn and protect all users."
Beck cited the lack of action against traffic offenders at roadwork sites as a contributing factor to rising accident statistics. .
"Many drivers also use the slowdown in traffic flow to make cellphone calls, which, when coupled with the distraction of roadwork activities, increases the chances of accidents in these areas."
The increase in the number of injuries and deaths at roadwork zones was consistent with the trend in other parts of the world.
According to the latest US statistics released by the Federal Highway Administration, the annual number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes in roadwork zones has increased by 45 percent over the past decade.
"The national roadworks in the run-up to 2010 are necessary in order to improve and elevate our public infrastructure to international standards, but more needs to be done from both a safety and law enforcement perspective in order to protect all road users against accidents," Beck said.
Construction-related road accidents cost the government an extra R6 billion a year. The current cost for accident exposure - the cost of damage to victims of road accidents - a year was R50bn.
Transport Department spokesman Logan Maistry said speeding was the main cause of accidents near road construction zones.
He said there were several signs warning motorists to reduce their speed and increase their following distance, but motorists simply did not comply.
"This results in fatal crashes," said Maistry.
"According to our analysis of road traffic crashes over the past year, more than 90 percent of all road crashes are preceded by a road traffic violation. Research has identified a close relationship between unsafe road behaviour and crashes."
Results from the 2008 traffic offence survey indicate that:
On a national basis, the overall traffic offence index increased by 27.84 percent, from an index of 5.28 in 2007 to an index of 6.75 last year.
The index is a traffic monitoring and evaluation tool for traffic offences.
Driving under the influence of alcohol during daytime, for all categories of vehicles, increased by 336.36 percent, from an index of 0.55 in 2007 to an index of 2.40 last year.
Exceeding the speed limit in urban areas increased by 52.57 percent, from 4.40 in 2007 to 6.70 last year.
There was a national increase in the percentage of drivers of light motor vehicles not wearing seatbelts, from 51.80 percent in 2007 to 63.60 percent in 2008.
Provincial transport spokesman Solly Malatsi said the department's Accident Bureau Unit was still finalising the Western Cape's 2008 road accident report.
This article was originally published on page 10 of Cape Argus on November 26, 2009